Thursday, January 26, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Launches Wide-Scale Investigation Of Web Sites Selling Cell Phone Records

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today launched an extensive investigation into allegations that several renegade Web sites are illegally offering to sell Texas consumers’ cell phone records that are considered private information.

The Attorney General has also contacted cell phone providers regarding the actions they are taking to better safeguard customer information.

Media Links
Sample web sites that sell cellular records

View Video of News Conference

“This is a serious breach of personal privacy,” said Attorney General Abbott. “The business of using trickery to obtain consumers’ cell phone records amounts to nothing more than the illegal trafficking of private information.”

Online data marketers promoting these illegal services charge between $50 and $200 for obtaining records of specific cellular phone calls, usually those made over the previous 30 days. Some Web companies falsely tell their customers that these records are public information.

To halt the business practices and to prevent the further spread of these Web sites, the Attorney General’s investigation demands information from several dozen pirate Web companies illegally claiming to have access to private cell phone records for a price. The results of the investigation will determine what legal action may be warranted.

Attorney General Abbott’s investigation will also focus on liabilities against those who conduct transactions that open consumers to possible dangers, including possible victims whose information may have fallen into the wrong hands. Some cell phone users, for example, may seek anonymity because they are protecting themselves from an abusive ex-spouse or a person stalking them. There are also concerns about the release of phone records of officers’ who work undercover.

To prevent such abuses, Attorney General Abbott urges consumers to contact their cell phone companies to find out if any party has requested their cell phone records. Otherwise, consumers may have no way of knowing if their privacy has been breached. Consumers may also request a unique password-protected account through their cell phone companies to prevent others from accessing these records.

Consumers who believe their records may have been compromised may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling toll-free (800) 252-8011 or file online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

The Attorney General will evaluate whether any activities violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The growing threat to consumers’ privacy, as reported recently among mainstream media and technology publications, has also prompted the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to open investigations into the activities of these fraudulent brokers.